What we learned from 2020?

Like most of you, we at the agency are spending time analysing what happened in 2020 and are trying to get our heads around what might lie ahead this year.

At the outset of the Covid-19 crisis last March, there were several predictions of heavy impending losses in fundraised income in the Irish charity sector. Initially estimates ranged from a minimum loss of €180 million to a high of €450 million – out of an estimated total of €1.5 billion.

While we can’t yet say for certain what exactly happened in 2020, we can assume that overall income will have declined.

However, the crisis didn’t affect all charities the same.


Who did well and why?

Some charities did well despite the Covid challenges. Those are the charities who pivoted their propositions to Covid. They made a commitment to engage with their donors, especially on impact. They developed new ask programmes and used online and digital channels effectively.

Those that did particularly well are working on the key issues significantly highlighted in the Covid media coverage, such as mental health, domestic violence and homelessness.

We know that charities that did well saw significant increases in Q2, Q3 and Q4 from their warm and prospect appeals and, in a lot of cases, saw record response rates and average gifts.

They also saw significant increases in major gifts from individuals, corporates, trusts and foundations. This is especially true of frontline organisations in Q2 and Q3, and all sectors in Q4.


Donor fatigue – Is it real or just feared?

There was some worry in Q3 of 2020 about possible Covid fatigue in the lead up to Christmas. But all the evidence is that this was not an issue. In fact, Christmas appeals seem to have done well.

The background to this success comes from a number of factors. Most donors will have seen increases in their disposable income over recent years, and in 2020 this increase has continued alongside exceptional levels of savings.

It’s hard to imagine, but the Irish economy actually grew in 2020! 

But perhaps the key takeaway is that we were all reminded of the core values of all donors. Donors want to help. Especially in a time of crisis.


What lies ahead in 2021?

It is probably fair to say that the decline in the so-called ‘Covid bounce’ has already started. We will know more about the true extent of this when the Easter appeals are completed.

From our perspective, we think that what happened in 2020 in Ireland is that those charities who took some risk and engaged with their donors succeeded. And we have little doubt that the same will be true for 2021.

Meanwhile, here’s two things we thought would be helpful.

The first is a short talk by Danny McCoy, head of IBEC, speaking at a recent IAPI webinar. He gives a good overall view of the economy and what he thinks lies ahead this year. (His talk begins at 3:38).

The second is the Charity Benchmarks Covid-19 Impact Report from the UK. The researchers have compiled a host of really useful information on the fundraising impacts seen in the UK, and some of it is really helpful for us here in Ireland.

Here’s how they end their summary: “As Seth Godin memorably stated, ‘The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.’ As fundraisers, we need to resist the urge to retreat into survival mode, and instead use this opportunity to engage in a more authentic and rewarding way with a public that clearly wants to help.”


And we’re here to help.

As you turn your thoughts to 2021 and how to continue to navigate your way through this crisis, our team is ready to help with any fundraising advice and expertise you might need. Or if you are trying to frame your post-Covid marketing, we can help you to ensure that all of it is integrated, compelling and effective. Chat with John on 087 266 3168 or email him on john@persuasionrepublic.ie.


That’s all from us for now.

Stay safe and be kind.

From John, Susan, Charlie and Alan and all the team at Persuasion Republic.